DBlog Week topic #4 is in regards to the healthcare experience. Yours truly could write a novella about this, but instead I will direct you to a few relevant posts.
Erin Gilmer’s “To All My Providers” is a must-read.
I am well-aware of the flaws of our healthcare system, having studied healthcare in grad school, worked in it, and lived it for 25 years as a type 1 diabetic. But for some odd reason, I just don’t feel like complaining about those flaws tonight. Instead, I want to share a vignette about the spirit of healthcare that I wish the system embodied more often.
In 2014, I took a summer elective called “Healthcare and the Older Citizen” as part of my Master’s program. I don’t know if I can really relate to this stuff, I thought. But the instructor was my favorite, and we got to tour nursing homes and elder care facilities all over the state of Rhode Island. Wins all around.
The juxtaposition of two facilities has always stuck with me. Early in the season, we toured a fancy nursing home which cost enough to afford college tuition and then some. The food was topnotch, organic, and prepared by the best chefs in the state. The amenities rivaled an episode of MTV Cribs. The picturesque sunsets were the stuff dreams were made of. By the end of the tour, my classmates and I were ready to pack our bags and move in!
The residents at Fancy Home were not particularly memorable. Nothing bad happened, per se, but nothing great was happening, either. They kept to themselves and spent their days dining on lobster and not talking much to their neighbors.
Later that summer, we visited a different location, a Church-run, low income assisted living facility. This place looked like the storage shed of Fancy Home. The cafeteria was reminiscent of my Catholic grammar school days- overcrowded and overheated. The food was run-of-the-mill, easy mac-n-cheese or hotdogs with green beans.
But the residents at Church Home were different. There was a noticeable pep in their step as they gave us the grand tour. One woman opened up her apartment to our entire class, and as we crowded into the room she showed us a black-and-white photo of a relative who- despite the diagnosis of diabetes at a time predating blood glucose meters- had jetted off to explore the world. There were no regrets in that decision.
Other residents told us about the Friday evening luaus and Saturday Bingo tournaments, and the happiness of spending one’s days winding down on earth in the company of the best friends you could ever hope to encounter. Life was good. Death was with dignity, surrounded by people who cared about you. The Afterlife was even better.
My classmates and I graduated from that course with a newfound appreciation for humanity in healthcare. We understood that no matter how much flashy technology a hospital has, or how much money is invested, you still cannot put a price on healthcare that emphasizes the “care” part. Love, respect, and grace go a long way, and these characteristics are relatable to any walk of life, any generation, any healthcare facility.
In order to provide good quality of life, healthcare does not always require the bells and whistles. Perhaps we have been looking in the wrong places all along. The secret to living well has been right in front of us, on Saturday evenings, at the Bingo tournaments.